Sam Rivers

Sam Rivers

I found Sam Rivers here.

This book extensively covers the experimental music I was raised with that ran parallel to the music we have been studying in class. At the beginning of the chapter on Creative Jazz Scarufi writes "Creative music was obviously related to experiments by John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Morton Feldman..."

He also includes a database of musician bios where he says "Arkansas-raised tenor saxophonist Sam Rivers (1923), who had studied at a conservatory of music, represented the highbrow alter-ego of Ornette Coleman's free jazz."

So I was intrigued

Luminous Monolith - from the Fuchsia Swing Song album (December 1964)

Amazing musicians with drummer Tony Williams, pianist Jaki Byard and bassist Ron Carter. The piece is episodic starting with a kind of swing feel after a short arpeggiated intro. Quickly into a drum break. Then the intro again kind of juiced up. Swing again. Then Free Jazz sax sound with just piano comping. Swing again then solo Free Jazz sax. Continues like this with very short episodes and with the Free Jazz infecting the swing parts. Piano solo with straight episodes. Constant stylistic changes. Drum solo. Back to sax. Now Free Jazz is dominating the swing with occasional other styles thrown in. Short drums and then back to sax, swing and then Free Jazz ending.

This was 1964. Because of Tony Williams work with Miles Davis' Second Great Quintet and all of his other work in jazz his style has been fully assimilated. He is considered to be one of the most influential 20th century jazz drummers. Probably because of this his breaks do not sound as revolutionary now as they did in 1964.

At the time Free Jazz was not well accepted. It's practitioners were over hyping how new it was and many listeners had difficulty grasping the transition. I think Luminous Monolith does a good job of showing the growth of Free Jazz out of Swing and Bebop styles.

Euterpe - from the Contours album (May 1965)

Another amazing band with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Joe Chambers.

Piano intro. Bass and piano, then Sam Rivers on flute. The bass is playing a repeated pattern with the piano varying chords on top of it. The flute has an extended melody without repetition. The muted trumpet is more thematic yet still constantly varying. The piano plays a scale of chords building energy and then back to a more constant part. Piano and bass only in a bass solo. The bass remains repetitive. An extended part of his solo centers around a single tone. Flute enters. More Euterpic meanderings. Very sparse accompaniment. Down to a trio in what could be called a piano solo. Almost all chorded moving into some notes. Like the other solos repetitive and tending to focus on a single note or tone. The flute enters with a melodic motif that is repeated and then varied. Ending with a repeated bass line and a sparse, comped, piano part.

This is a very listenable piece with none of the noise and anger associated with Free Jazz from this era. Very modal sounding and very exploratory. No recognizable melody until the last flute solo.

Mellifluos Cacophony - from the Contours CD

Head with sax and trumpet in a strong Free Jazz style followed by swinging sax solo with intermittent bursts beyond bebop. Piano solo. Heavily patterned with repeated motifs up and down the scale. Strong right hand emphasis. Trumpet. After a cacophonic head they are taking turns and they really lose the cacophony. I guess this is the mellifluos part. Hubbard follows Hancock's lead with occasional repeated motifs but not as often with a lot of scale type soloing as well. Drum solo. This is actually a kind of standard jazz arrangement. Chambers is definitely laying down a pulse. Out on the head which sounds less experimental the second time around. I think the repetition shows that it is arranged and written out removing some of the spontaneity.

I love these pieces. I would call them Free Jazz influenced rather than Free Jazz school. They are from Rivers first two albums and so they probably do not represent his most experimental work. I certainly intend to listen to more.

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